Dr. Eileen Lynch
5. Constitution in Crisis
Describe the major steps in filling the vacant office of the vice president, and explain how it has been used.
As the video lesson poignantly reminds us, there have been four occasions when the detractors of the legally elected President of the
The Constitution states clearly (in its ambiguous and generalized way) that if the President becomes “unable” or “disabled” to exercise the powers and duties of his office, then the vice president should become the president. But after that, it seems that Congress had to come up with a solution for everything that happened next. For example, as the video lesson reminds us of a moment in history that lives in ignominy in most every living American mind, when President Kennedy was shot by Oswald and/or unidentified cohorts, vice president Johnson assumed the office of the President of the
The first time this amendment was put to use was in October 1973, after Spiro Agnew had resigned amid a veritable whirlwind of shame and corruption allegations. (The fact that he pled no contest should not be construed as a sign of guilt, regardless.) Then President Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to replace Agnew’s vacant post. The office of vice president remained empty for 57 days, however, until the nomination was approved by the Senate (92-3) and the House (387-35) in December. Then, the second time the 25th amendment was used was a few months later, when Nixon took his turn at quitting and left the vacancy ready for his own appointed vice president Ford to assume the helm and control of the nation. President Ford then, in turn, nominated New Yorker Nelson A. Rockefeller, governor, to become vice president, and once again, Congress didn’t let Rockefeller into the vice president’s office until December.
After reviewing the chapter in the textbook and the video lesson, I am confused, however. According to Table 13-4 in the textbook, the order of succession in the event a president is no longer able to serve should be: 1) the vice president, 2) the Speaker of the House, 3) the president pro tempore of the Senate, 4) the Secretary of State, and then the rest of the cabinet. However, in the video lesson, after graphically reminding us of the moment of the assassination attempt against President Reagan, the lesson shows us Alexander Haig (Secretary of State) as he appears in front of the media saying in response to a reporters question about who’s in charge, “… constitutionally, gentleman, you have the president, the vice president and the Secretary of State, in that order…” Perhaps, in the heat of the emergency, Mr. Haig received the wrong teleprompter information. Or, maybe, there were extenuating circumstances for this discrepancy of which we know nothing about from the video program.
Democracy Under Pressure: An Introduction to the American System, 10th Edition, Milton C. Cummings, Jr., David Wise, Thomson